Adorned with his signature red watch cap, Channel Tres has nowhere to go but up. For the last year or so, the producer has been popping up in some surprising places, trying to make a name for himself. Aside from his own Detroit techno-inspired dance music, he can be found remixing songs from a wide array of genres, most recently tinkering with Toro y Moi’s “Who I Am” and Mark Ronson and Lykke Li’s “Late Night Feelings.” Both are great remixes and assist in building his fanbase, but they fail to flaunt Tres’s weirder, more exploratory side. With his most recent release, Black Moses, Tres has an opportunity to bring his eccentricities to the dance mainstream, and maybe even beyond.
On Black Moses, Tres is heavily influenced by Detroit techno overlord Moodymann. Even his vocal delivery and monologues are reminiscent of the influential and hermetic producer. His voice is low and monotonous, giving his often visceral subject matter a subdued feel. However, where Moodymann’s samples are often soulful and familiar, calling back to Detroit’s Motown era, Channel Tres’s are futuristic and inventive. On standout track “Brilliant N****,” Tres creates a musical mosaic, fluid and vibrant in its sound choices. The drums are bouncy and danceable and the bassline is juicy, but the song’s shining moments occur when the flute sample manifests itself. It feels like the flutes carry the listener through the song, like a cartoon character being led by the scent of a fresh-baked pie. It brings the perfect amount of flair to the song and acts as an accent to lines like, “The drugs is in the groove, you know / I’m the shit that got you comatose.”
Equally danceable but less flashy is the penultimate track “Sexy Black Timberlake.” Icy, warbling synths and sputtering bass serve as the perfect vehicle to deliver braggadocious exclamations like, “Oh, cause bitches goin’ crazy / Bitches act crazy / Better watch your old lady / Tryna get in my house.” Closing song “Raw Power” is more of the same. It’s a fun song in which Tres claims that he has raw, unrefined power at his shows, just like when Iggy Pop first burst onto the Ann Arbor scene, but it drags a little. There just isn’t enough variation or excitement in the beat or delivery to justify the length of the song.
The strangest song on the album is also the song that best showcases Channel Tres’s potential. Titular track “Black Moses” is Tres at his most experimental, and a guest verse from rap idiosyncrat JPEGMAFIA cements that claim. Starting with a demented bassline that could’ve came straight from Kenny Beats’s arsenal, Tres sprinkles in short bursts of vocal chops to fill in the gaps. He and JPEGMAFIA go on to spit their game and talk their shit, and in doing so, they created one of the most inventive and unique rap songs of the year.
At a mere five songs, Black Moses is over almost as soon as it begins, forcing listeners to restart the EP at least one time (in my case, after my first listen, I replayed the tape four more times). Its brief length pulls listeners in and traps them inside the hypnotizing productions, leaving them practically begging for more. If Black Moses is a sign of things to come, Channel Tres is about to be in a favorable position. These songs go hard and can be played in nearly any circumstance that calls for letting loose and dancing like a fool, and for an artist trying to put their name on the map, this can only be a good thing.